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POLITICS: PennAve

Another former Obama official backs Keystone XL as review hits snag

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Barack Obama,Nebraska,Canada,Climate Change,PennAve,Keystone XL,Energy and Environment,Zack Colman,Oil Sands

Former Obama administration officials are lining up in support of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline as a Nebraska court ruling threatens to delay a final decision on the controversial pipeline.

The latest to back the Canada-to-Texas project is Marcia McNutt, who led the U.S. Geological Survey from 2009 until 2013. Currently the editor-in-chief of the journal Science, she wrote in an editorial that, "I believe it is time to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline," so long as Canada commits to greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

McNutt is the latest in a list of former Obama administration officials who have said they would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Those officials include former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and a pair of former national security advisers, Tom Donilon and James L. Jones.

The administration, however, hasn't indicated a decision is coming any time soon. The State Department just initiated a 90-day interagency review process that will be used to determine whether building Keystone XL is in the national interest. But even then, there's no timeframe for a final call from the White House.

President Obama defended his administration's review of the pipeline at a meeting in Mexico with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Wednesday. Harper and the Canadian government,with U.S. business groups, unions and lawmakers, have lobbied aggressively to get the TransCanada Corp. project approved.

Some say the Nebraska court ruling Wednesday may have messed up that federal process.

The Lancaster County District Court sided with three Nebraska landowners that a 2012 law allowing Republican Gov. Dave Heineman to approve a revised Keystone XL route through its state was unconstitutional, putting the pipeline's future in uncertain territory.

"This is a very significant decision and is likely to impact the federal decision-making process around Keystone XL as it has in the past," said Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Anthony Swift, who added that Obama refused to green-light Keystone XL in 2011 because of concerns regarding compliance with Nebraska law.

White House spokesman Joshua Earnest declined to comment Thursday on how the ongoing litigation might affect the federal review.

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Zack Colman

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner